Debate

Colonial performances live on in Swedish fundraising galas

TV viewers should be critically aware of how fundraising galas such as SVT's "Together for the Children of the World" depict poverty and the development of countries. Images of starving, helpless children are used for commercial purposes and are based on a colonial notion of the white man's burden and the superiority of the Western world. It writes Alma Wallengren, who recently wrote an essay on the subject at the University of Gothenburg

Today it is time for Radio Aid's annual fundraiser "Together for the children of the world", where the grants go to a number of organizations in the development aid and charity industry. The fundraiser is marketed through a series of short documentaries and interview programs that are broadcast on SVT during the week, and culminates in a lavish fundraising gala that is broadcast on SVT1 now on Friday 11/10. Last year, the gala was followed by over a million Swedish TV viewers. I want to say that televised fundraising galas of this type to a large extent contribute to the image that ordinary men and women in Sweden get of poverty and development in different parts of the world. This spring I wrote my master's thesis in Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg; "They live like this every day, like" - representations of poverty in Swedish fundraising galas, in which I from a postcolonial perspective make a discursive review of the two major fundraising galas that were broadcast on Swedish TV in 2012: Humorgalan and Together for the children of the world. Although Together for the children of the world proved to give a far less stereotyped and simplified picture of the poverty problem than UNICEF's Humorgalan, and on the contrary in many ways proved to be both informative and relatively in-depth, there is reason to be critically aware of the collection going on this week.

First and foremost, Radio Aid's fundraising gala uses a popular approach to charity rhetoric; to let children represent poverty. Children are considered and portrayed as victims of their poverty, and can not be blamed for it. The stereotypical image of the poor child with a swollen malnourished stomach and watery eyes evokes in the viewer feelings of empathy and guilt; we want to help the passive child who has no agency space to get out of his situation himself. Although this is largely true, these representations continue to play on a colonial notion that poverty and poor people are "the burden of the white man" - only with the help of the active white benefactor does the often anonymized poor have the opportunity to cope. I also want to question the image of the child from an objectifying point of view; the child is used for commercial purposes to "sell" poverty and the relationship to the child. In this way, poverty and aid are commercialized in a way that does not feel completely credible. In this context, also consider the very concept of "fundraising gala". A televised celebration with concerts and raffles of expensive prizes at the expense of human poverty and misery!

Furthermore, I would like to draw attention to the view of development in Together for the children of the world. In several reports and interviews from the collection in 2012, the idea is put forward that the “western world” is in some way ahead of the poor world in the development process, which can be considered problematic. There is no room here to analyze the development discourse in more detail, but my point is that this portrayal of "us" as the step before "judgment" is rooted in a colonial notion of the civilization project. By allowing the western world to represent modernization and maturity, they appear as active actors while the poor become a passive and infantile object in a still outmoded and uncivilized society. This is a well-known form of second celebration in postcolonial theory; "Their" present becomes the same as "our" past. This division also has the effect that the two development processes are separated from each other and the pace of development is seen as linked to the individual country and not to the relations between the countries - the blame for poverty is indirectly placed on local factors and not on global structures.

Do not misunderstand me. Fundraising galas of this kind are needed to engage the broad masses in development and poverty issues, and contribute every year to educating people about global processes and lifting acute cases of poverty in the world. It is noticeable that the producers behind Together for the children of the world has taken on board previous criticisms of poverty representations and is doing its very best to provide viewers with broad knowledge, varying images of poverty and expertise that is not just based on the donor side. What I want to draw attention to with this article are the colonial notions that Despite this lives on in the media's portrayal of poverty and poor people, notions that turn out to be more deeply rooted than one would like to believe.

Alma Wallengren, Bachelor of Global Studies

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